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Notre Dame Week: A Q&A with Rakes of Mallow

I am late in getting this up today, but I was covering a girls high school golf tournament that ended about four hours later than I expected. On the plus side, I now know more about the world of golf than I ever did before by sitting in a clubhouse for eight hours.

Anyway, Chris from SBNation's Notre Dame Community Rakes of Mallow contacted me late last week about trading some questions. I was more than happy to help him out, as I will be doing the same on Wednesday for Keith Arnold's Inside The Irish at NBC Sports. Here is what had Chris had to say in response to my questions, while my responses to his are over at his site.

Rakes Of Mallow

Raking the Mallow

T-Mill: Dayne Crist vs. Robert Marve. Both are coming off of ACL surgeries. Who has the advantage?

Chris: I would give a tiny advantage to Crist because he played last year and had a chance to develop some sort of relationship with his receivers, but this is close to a push.  Marve hasn't played since 2008, but considering his injury was before Crist's, he's probably healthier (although all reports have the Irish QB just a shade under 100%).  The advantage Marve has is that he's been in Danny Hope's system along with the rest of the team for nearly two years, whereas everything is new for the entire Irish offense under Brian Kelly.  Granted, Kelly managed to get great results from whoever he slid under center at Cincinnati, so hopefully the offense remains QB-friendly for Crist, but I think both defenses have reason to be worried, even if the opposition will be starting new quarterbacks.

T-Mill: Do you think Notre Dame will run to exploit Purdue's weaknesses against the run last year, or pass to exploit a young secondary?

Chris: Hopefully they're doing a little bit of both.  Brian Kelly has repeatedly said he is going to be running the ball and this team is capable of doing that at a high level, but that certainly wasn't a strength under Charlie Weis.  There is talent in the backfield, from senior Armando Allen down to sophomore uber-recruit Cierre Wood, but the real strength of the Irish offense lies with guys on the outside like Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph.  The interior of the line (guards Chris Stewart and Trevor Robinson) should provide some pop up the middle, but again, no one knows how this group of personnel is going to look running a Brian Kelly offense for the first time.  If Crist can be the triggerman we wish him to be, the Irish shouldn't have any trouble moving the ball through ground or air, but between his inexperience and the new system, who knows.

T-Mill: Defensively, how will the Irish secondary fare against a deep and talented group of Purdue receivers/

Chris: Going into last season many Irish fans thought one of the strengths of the team was the secondary, but that ended up being far, far from the truth.  A lot of the problem was scheme, as a majority of the defensive backs - save for Kyle McCarthy - were continually out of position.  If Purdue goes four-wide they should have an advantage with the dime back, as after Gary Gray, Darrin Walls and Robert Blanton, corner gets thin quickly.  There are four safeties jostling for the starting stops, and it looks like Harrison Smith and Jamoris Slaughter will be starting.  Smith has been shuffled back and forth from linebacker to defensive back, and the rest of the safety candidates have limited experience, so it'll be interesting to see if talent and Bob Diaco's scheme can win out over inexperience and a disappointing 2009 under a confused and terrible Jon Tenuta.

T-Mill: Will there be a sense of panic among the fans if Kelly fails to win his debut?

Chris: Oh, there's a sense of panic after every Irish loss, but I don't think it would be the end of the world.  Kelly needs to be the answer for the long term, not just for 2010 and not just for September 4.  Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham both had stellar debuts and good first seasons, so the onus is on Kelly to have the team better in November than it is in September (which didn't happen under Weis) and better in 2011 than it is in 2010.  So to answer your question: Yes, but only because this is college football and Notre Dame and there's a sense of panic constantly looming.

T-Mill: Who does Purdue have to fear at receiver other than Michael Floyd (who terrifies me)?

Chris: I would pay extra attention to Kyle Rudolph, a probable first round pick and Mackey Award favorite.  You might remember him from his game-winning catch in the waning moments of last year's Irish and Boilermakers clash, and there's no reason to think he won't continue to excel (Ed Note: I remember. I remember swearing profusely since it happened in front of me).  Lot of interesting options at wide receiver, including early enrollee TJ Jones, who has impressed the coaching staff throughout spring and fall practice, and converted running back Theo Riddick, who will hopefully have the same success making that transition that Golden Tate did.  Duval Kamara and John Goodman have the most experience after Floyd and Rudolph, while Shaq Evans and Deion Walker have four-star pedigrees but limited time on the field.  There are a lot of weapons for Crist to throw to, with Floyd and Rudolph settled in as options 1 and 1A.  It will be interesting to see how the rest of the options settle out over the course of the season.